Dreams during pregnancy are often more vivid. Ever wondered why? MH checks in with the experts.
WORDS JOANNA ONG
Just when you need that elusive sleep with that ever-increasing bump, you dream some bizarre dream that makes you wonder whether you’re truly awake. Fret not, our experts, Dr Lim Boon Leng, psychiatrist at Gleneagles Hospital and Dr Christopher Ng, OBGYN at GynaeMD Women's & Rejuvenation Clinic at Camden Medical Centre unveil the mystery behind these dreams.
How Does Pregnancy Affect Dreams?
According to Dr Lim, dreaming is essentially a part of our sleep.
During pregnancy, sleep is often disturbed and as such, your sleep architecture and
the way you experience your dreams may be affected.
Dr Ng adds that hormonal changes in your body as you go through pregnancy may also affect dreams. It may also be related to increased anxiety and stress that some women experience when they are pregnant that may make their dreams seem more vivid. For some women, the physical changes their bodies undergo may interrupt sleep more frequently (e.g. waking up to go to urinate at night or another discomfort) and may give the impression that dreams are more “vivid”.
Why do Dreams Increase During Pregnancy?
We only remember the dreams we have prior to waking up, Dr Lim highlights. Due to various factors such as the physical discomfort of pregnancy, the baby moving and the need to go to the toilet to pass urine more in the night, you may end up having more interrupted sleep and remembering your dreams more, rather than having more dreams. Furthermore, pregnant women do need longer hours of sleep and with more sleep, there will be more dreams.
Why are Pregnancy Dreams More Vivid and Memorable?
Dr Lim shares that hormonal changes as well as the stress of pregnancy may result in emotionality and anxiety. The emotionality can often be reflected in more intense and emotional dreams. If your sleep is disrupted during REM sleep which is when dreaming takes place, the dream can also be experienced as more vivid.
Are the Dreams Different for Each Trimester? What are They Usually Like?
Dreams are reflections of the emotional state and events that occurred in the day, Dr Lim states. It is important to know that dreams are symbolic and not to be taken concretely. In the early stages of pregnancy, you may have dreams with themes of change and the start of life. For e.g. dreaming of a plant sprouting symbolising the beginning of a life. Water is also a common theme during the initial stages of pregnancy. Karen Muller a psychologist in Hayward, California mentions on Webmd.com that a foetus floating in water or a fish in water are common dreams. The mother swimming through water is also common and can relate to her identifying with the foetus.
In the second trimester, dreams start to reflect the changes in the baby and the mother's body such as dreams about little animals and other things that may represent babies. Muller adds that a lot of dreams about changed architecture may parallel body changes.
In the third trimester, dreams seem to be more telling. Author of the book Creative Dreaming and co-founder of the Association for the Study of Dreams, Patricia Garfield highlights to Webmd.com that in the third trimester, there are more specific dreams about the baby i.e. a baby may tell the mother her name in a dream, or a woman may dream about the baby's gender. Dreams about journeys, going on a trip, or packing are also frequent in the third trimester which can reflect a fear of the unknown.
There may be a reason for these fears. During the later trimesters, you may be more anxious and worried resulting in dreams reflecting fears and uncertainties, Dr Lim mentions. Some may even have dreams like their partners cheating on them which simply reflects the uncertainty in the relationship with a new baby in the family. He reminds us that these dreams are symbolic and not prophetic!
What Should I Do about These Dreams?
Dr Lim assures that there is really nothing that you have to do with these dreams. Some people do get intrigued by dreams and jotting them down may be interesting.
Dreams may be a way for us to process emotional
trauma and there is no need to judge, over-interpret or
be worried about the dreams themselves.
Will a Very Bad Dream or Nightmare Affect the Baby?
Nightmares and bad dreams do not affect your baby, emphasises Dr Lim. If you had a bad dream, let it be, go back to bed and soon you will fall asleep. You may remember you had a bad dream yesterday but most of the time you will not even be able to remember the content of the dream. Dr Ng advises that you should try to relax and reduce stress before you sleep. Try to think of positive thoughts and do activities that you enjoy or you find relaxing before you retire for the night. If these dreams persist then you can write them down (as much as you can remember) and inform your gynaecologist to see if he or she can link it to any of your experiences, worries or anxieties.
Read this too!